A chef walks into a sandwich shop… and creates something Harrisonburg hasn’t had before.
You might notice the light first, streaming in through the wall of plate glass windows. To the right you’ll see the glory of a 1950s living room, an old console stereo flanked by handsome books and two mid-century chairs. Local artwork compliments the simple, uncluttered space. It’s the perfect place to grab a sandwich and hunker down with your laptop or a good book, or meet a friend for food and conversation. It’s Harrisonburg’s newest: Gray Jay Provisions.
Both a market and a sandwich shop, Gray Jay has what you need if you’re hungry now or will be later. On the market side, there are dry provisions and chilled provisions and provisions for every occasion. Like charcuterie provisions. And I’m-Not-Sure-What-To-Bring-To-This-Party provisions. My-In-Laws-Are-Coming provisions. Or I-Just-Need-A-Damn-Bloody-Mary provisions.
They’ve got crackers and salami, assorted vinegars and oils, multiple flavors of Backpocket Provisions Bloody Mary Mix. They’ve got mustard and honey and cheeses and sausages. Prosciutto spread and jars of kimchi and curtido.
They’ve got Gearharts chocolates and Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, Field Trip brand jerky, veggie burgers, and ice cream. And a wide selection of Grown Up Sodas, Maine Root sodas, and Fentimans botanically brewed sodas.
At the counter, you’ll see their small but sophisticated and thoughtfully designed menu. It changes with the availability of fresh, local ingredients; on the day we were there, they offered a roasted tempeh sandwich with sweet potato, pickled red onion, and mushrooms; a sliced pork sandwich with sweet potato and kimchi; a line-caught tuna sandwich with caper aioli, pickled red onion, and arugula; a baked tofu sandwich with shiitake aioli and kimchi; a chicken confit sandwich with herb mayo, arugula, and pickled red onion; and a sunflower butter open face sandwich with honey and crème fraîche. On the side, they offer tots, chick peas, and soup — that day, lentil and creamy tomato. Gluten-free bread and vegan options are always available.
All sandwiches are served on their house-made sourdough bread. This sourdough goes back a long time. Its starter is a blend of co-owner Michelle’s starter from Austria, created from wild airborne yeast and spring water, and co-owner Seth’s starter. The bread holds up to the demands of a hefty sandwich, yet gives easily between the teeth. And you can take a loaf of your own home with you: $6 for a small loaf and $9 for a large. And when I say large, I mean it’s the biggest dang loaf you’ve ever seen in real life.
One Saturday per month, Seth gets to flex his culinary muscles in pop-up dinners with wine pairings. After learning to cook in his mom’s kitchen, Seth worked as a sous chef and head chef in high-end restaurants in Boston for 14 years. Michelle’s passions lie in the intersection of centuries-old food traditions of cultures around the world and today’s need for sustainability achieved with local and seasonal ingredients and organic growing methods. Together they conjure dishes that are delicious, creative, and responsible. Indeed, their menu items boast simple yet integrated flavors not found at your usual sandwich shop.
In case you’re wondering about the name, the Gray Jay is a mascot of sorts. While reading about this little bird, I came across words like friendly and loyal, clever and playful, tough. An apt mascot for Seth, Michelle, and Soula, who embody all these traits and work them into everything they make. Trust me: you’ll go in for a sandwich and come out with something spectacular.
Gray Jay Provisions is located at 1311 South High Street in Harrisonburg, and they’re open Monday – Friday, 11am – 7pm. Follow them on social media for menu updates and be sure to join their mailing list so you’ll be informed about events like their pop-up dinners!
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